Olympus OM-D E-M5 Experience So Far

I’ve been using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for the last month or so and thought I’d share some of my experiences so far. First a quick explanation what “mirrorless” cameras are all about; mostly they have no mirrors. Ok, that’s not very helpful! DSLR cameras have a mirror inside that reflect the image back up to the viewfinder. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flies-up and then the shutter opens, exposing your image. All of this happens in a fraction of a section.

This idea has been around for decades, with the sensor replacing the film in modern cameras.

Mirrorless cameras have no mechanical mirror to worry about and so the body is much smaller. There are a few camera makes in this space and they offer different ways of capturing images. Olympus and Panasonic teamed-up to create the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) standard. A number of lens makes make high quality lenses for the range as well. I chose the OM-D because of a few factors; its robustness, speed and image quality. You really can’t go wrong with any camera from Sony, Panasonic, Fuji and Olympus, so make sure you shop around for what suits you best. Canon and Nikon are bringing-up the rear but I’m sure will catch-up over time.

Over the last month I’ve tested the OM-D with the following situations; portraits, sports, landscape, architectural and macro. I used the kit lens (12-50mm) and the great little Panasonic 14mm f2.5 . What I like about the OM-D is that it’s so small you can just drop it in your pocket (assuming you’re wearing a jacket!) and go. Wandering around with the 14mm attached draws little or no attention. This allows you to take candid street shots and indoor captures. The fast focusing of the OM-D means there is no fiddling about- just compose and shoot. With the 12-50mm attached you get a complete weather-sealed solution. I took this out on some rocks, down low in the sea. Using the flip LCD I was able to take some really fun shots of the waves as they raced. I forgot how much fun articulated screens can be; especially when coupled with the 14mm wide-open at f2.5.

On the downside, the OM-D struggled a bit a sports shooting. Basically once you acquire focus, it doesn’t track that well (if at all). So even though you can shoot at 9 frames per second, your subject better not be moving! Comparing the OM-D to the Canon 5D Mark III is a little unfair given their price differential but still interesting I think. The OM-D lacks the dynamic range of the 5D; at a practical level this means that exposure at sunset must be more careful managed. I do use RAW for my landscapes on the OM-D but even then I’ve found that it’s hard to pull-back much details in the highlights. All that said, I’ve taken some great shots with the OM-D even in bad light.

A final note about ISO and noise. When there isn’t much light about and you need to increase the ISO to get that shot. The OM-D is pretty good up to 1600 ISO but after that it I’ve noticed quite a bit of noise in the shadows. Most of this you can deal with using Lightroom.

All in all the OM-D is a winner. It’s in my bag everyday and a welcome addition to “serious” shooting, too.

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